Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal

Cayuga Community College Bolsters the Workforce by Looking Ahead

Culinary arts students will train at the Cayuga Culinary Institute opening in fall 2020.

Culinary arts students will train at the Cayuga Culinary Institute opening in fall 2020.

Community colleges play a vital role in the region’s economic development. The heart of their mission is to educate and train the local workforce so that employers have access to talented and skilled workers. In this two-part series, Locate Finger Lakes profiles Cayuga Community College and Finger Lakes Community College, two institutions that are leading the way in developing community and industry partnerships to strengthen the Finger Lakes economy.


Dr. Brian Durant, president of Cayuga Community College

Dr. Brian Durant, president of Cayuga Community College, doesn’t have a crystal ball on his desk. Nevertheless, he can see into the future.

His ability to anticipate the community’s education and job training needs has solidified CCC’s reputation as a forward-thinking institution, and a vital economic development partner.

Cayuga County ranks second in the state in sales of agricultural products.

Two years ago, CCC hired a coordinator of agricultural initiatives to ensure that the college was positioned to support Cayuga County’s food and agriculture industries.

“That position has allowed Cayuga to become more informed about the regional landscape in agriculture, food production and other areas, and ensure we’re part of those conversations,” said Durant. “It’s a good example of how we scan the region to make sure we have the academic programs the community needs.”

This fall, CCC will open the Cayuga Culinary Institute in downtown Auburn to train culinary arts students for careers in the region’s fast-growing food, beverage and tourism industries.

“That initiative couples well with the needs and opportunities in the region’s tourism and hospitality industry,” said Durant. “The Culinary Institute will be another training tool to support human resource needs for those businesses both locally and regionally.”

Expanding the scope of higher education

Durant started his career in higher education as a career counselor at a community college in the Hudson Valley.

“It was eye-opening to connect with a diverse population of traditional students and adult learners whose backgrounds and paths were so unique,” said Durant. “A community college supports students in their individual goals, whether that’s to transfer to a four-year college or train for a job. I found it very inspiring and it has motivated me throughout my career.”

Durant was named the ninth president of Cayuga Community College in 2015. He has long had a passion for helping people—and communities—reach their goals.

In recent years, he said, much of his focus has been working with community leaders to provide support beyond the scope of traditional education.

“Community colleges are so interconnected and important to the fabric of the communities they reside in,” said Durant. “We’re very proud of what Cayuga offers both academically and from a student support perspective. A big piece of our mission, of course, is to support local human resource needs and the economic development vision of our region.”

Under his leadership, CCC has expanded its community partnerships, including job training programs with area manufacturing companies.

The Advanced Manufacturing Institute on CCC’s Auburn campus was created in partnership with local employers, including Currier Plastics, to provide the coursework and training needed to fill in-demand manufacturing jobs in the region.

Auburn-based Bo-Mer Plastics and Skaneateles-based Welch Allyn have also partnered with CCC on these initiatives.

“These programs set students up with the skills they need for jobs and careers at places like Currier Plastics and others,” said Durant. “Our students are getting firsthand exposure to the facilities, the automation, the products and the operation of these businesses.”

Creating a workforce development center for the future

The college is currently leading an effort to establish a centralized workforce development center for Cayuga County. It will house under one roof CCC’s Office of Community Education and Workforce Development, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County, and the Cayuga Works Career Center.

Durant said the center is one of the college’s top priorities. The goal is to more effectively and efficiently help county residents develop the skills they need to secure employment or retrain for a new career.

“The center will support individuals looking for employment and provide access to training and credentialing programs for current and emerging jobs,” said Durant. “We think this will be very impactful for the community and we’re excited to deliver this in such a high-traffic and convenient location.”

The center will be located at the Cornell Cooperative Extension building in Auburn, which will undergo renovations to transform the site into what Durant calls a state-of-the-art education and training facility.

The aim is to break ground and begin renovations in late 2021.

Collaborating with FLCC to serve the entire Finger Lakes region

Sponsored by Cayuga County, CCC is a two-year community college with campuses in Auburn, Cayuga County and Fulton, Oswego County. It is part of SUNY – The State University of New York, the nation’s largest comprehensive public university system.

To the west is Finger Lakes Community College, led by Dr. Robert Nye.

Durant said he and Nye have a great working relationship.

“Dr. Nye and Finger Lakes Community College have a tremendous reputation of providing exceptional education and training for its community,” said Durant. “As neighboring community colleges, and members of SUNY, we are well positioned to ensure that our academic programs and services support students from across the region.”

Durant added that the colleges are always looking at opportunities to partner. The Young Entrepreneurs Academy is one recent example.

CCC and FLCC are home to the region’s first two chapters of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), which gives middle and high school students the opportunity to develop and launch their own business. Locally, the program is a partnership with Locate Finger Lakes, and is sponsored by Lyons National Bank.

Durant and Nye are both Locate Finger Lakes board members.

“It’s been a wonderful partnership with Locate Finger Lakes and FLCC,” said Durant. “It’s giving students a tremendous opportunity to use their entrepreneurial spirit to develop small business plans and ideas. These are tools that will help them now and in the future.”

To train the workforce of the future, CCC also works with local high schools and BOCES across a seven-county area to boost college, technical and career opportunities for young people.

Looking ahead, Durant is focused on continuing to build a sustainable infrastructure for CCC to be the strongest possible partner in the region’s growth.

“When local economic developers are meeting with businesses thinking about locating or expanding here, Cayuga Community College is evidence that we’re here to help educate and support their talent needs,” he said.

“Our commitment is to be an asset not just for the students we serve, but for the greater community,” Durant added. “Long-term sustaining success comes from having the infrastructure in place and being part of the economic vision and planning. That will ultimately position us for a bright future.”

Cayuga Community College

Auburn Campus
197 Franklin Street
Auburn, NY 13021

Fulton Campus
11 River Glen Drive
Fulton, NY 13069

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